Organic material--food and paper, for example--rot and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, when sent to the landfill. When the liners meant to seal landfills eventually crack, toxic substances can leach into the water table, causing hard to trace illnesses in faraway communities.
But perhaps the worse thing is, when we throw something in the landfill to be buried in the ground (or worse, in an incinerator to be burned into our air), it represents a waste of resources that we took from the earth in the first place.
Here's the good news: I think it actually feels good not to waste. That is to say, I've found that not making trash, actually makes me feel better about myself.
For these reasons, I've put together this list of 25 ways to avoid making trash suggest by readers of the No Impact Man blog:
- Keep your own cutlery with you so you don't have to use the plastic versions
- Cut up your old clothes for use as rags and avoid paper towels
- Use mason jars to carry everything from drinking water to a packed lunch
- Use a handkerchief instead of tissue
- Make notepaper from the blank side of junk mail
- Give your old eyeglasses to the local Lions Club for distribution to those in need
- Make cardboard egg cartons into biodegradable seed starters
- Cut yogurt containers into strips and use them to label garden plants
- Use cloth bags for the bulk bins at the grocery store
- Empty out vacuum cleaner bags and reuse
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper towel
- Cook from scratch to avoid food packaging
- Use shaving soap bars to avoid throwaway bottles
- Make your own yogurt so there are no plastic tubs
- Wash and reuse ziplock bags
- Use the waxy liners of cereal boxes to wrap sandwiches
- Use scrap office paper for kids coloring books
- Carry a cloth for drying your hands and wrapping things in
- Pack a lunch in a reusable container instead of buying lunch in plastic packaging
- Use rechargeable batteries
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.